D'Antoni's departure will allow the Lakers' franchise overhaul to begin in earnest after their worst season since 1957-58 back in Minneapolis. Los Angeles missed the postseason for just the second time in the 17-season career of Bryant, who occasionally clashed with D'Antoni.
The Lakers have a top-10 pick in a strong draft and just three players under contract for next season, including Nash and Bryant. The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history will make more than $48 million over the next two years.
A coaching change also might make the Lakers more attractive to Gasol, an unrestricted free agent who intimated he wouldn't consider returning if D'Antoni still coached the team. Kupchak has said the Lakers are very interested in re-signing the 7-foot Spaniard, one of the top available free agents.
"There would have to be significant changes," Gasol wrote in Spanish on his personal blog recently. "I've never concealed the fact that D'Antoni's style doesn't suit my game. Everybody knows this. I don't know if my decision will be swayed by whether Mike stays or leaves. Obviously, the coach is a very important factor for any team."
After joining the Lakers on short notice last season, D'Antoni was unable to assemble a contending team immediately around Bryant and Dwight Howard, who struggled to embrace the pick-and-roll game so important to D'Antoni's offense.
Los Angeles won 45 games last season despite its awful start under Brown. But the Lakers lost Bryant to a torn Achilles tendon late in the regular season before getting swept out of the first round by San Antonio.
Howard left the Lakers as a free agent last summer, fleeing to Houston for less money to escape the Lakers' drama and high expectations.
Bryant played in just six games this season after breaking a bone near his knee in December, and Los Angeles never had a consistently competitive team in his absence. Nash also missed most of the season with various injuries, but the 40-year-old point guard hopes to play again next season.
D'Antoni realized he would take the blame for the Lakers' woes this season, and the veteran coach seemed comfortable with the prospect when the team packed up for the summer.
"Every coach should be under scrutiny," D'Antoni said two weeks ago. "Some coaches get fired even after the best years they've ever had. ... There's always things we could have done better, and it's easier with hindsight. Things don't always go smoothly. For the most part, our guys were very competitive. For us, there are some silver linings in there, but in hindsight, it's disappointing for everybody."